Researchers at the University of Exeter in England identified 4 genetic markers for early menopause. (Link to scientific paper – open access download.) The following abstract from their publication in the Journal “Human Molecular Genetics” suggests that while these markers predict early menopause, the strength of their prediction is low.
ABSTRACT: Women become infertile approximately 10 years before menopause, and as more women delay childbirth into their 30s, the number of women who experience infertility is likely to increase. Tests that predict the timing of menopause would allow women to make informed reproductive decisions. Current predictors are only effective just prior to menopause, and there are no long-range indicators. Age at menopause and early menopause (EM) are highly heritable, suggesting a genetic aetiology. Recent genome-wide scans have identified four loci associated with variation in the age of normal menopause (40–60 years). We aimed to determine whether theses loci are also risk factors for EM. We tested the four menopause-associated genetic variants in a cohort of approximately 2000 women with menopause ≤45 years from the Breakthrough Generations Study (BGS). All four variants significantly increased the odds of having EM. Comparing the 4.5% of individuals with the lowest number of risk alleles (two or three) with the 3.0% with the highest number (eight risk alleles), the odds ratio was 4.1 (95% CI 2.4–7.1, P = 4.0 × 10−7). In combination, the four variants discriminated EM cases with a receiver operator characteristic area under the curve of 0.6. Four common genetic variants identified by genome-wide association studies, had a significant impact on the odds of having EM in an independent cohort from the BGS. The discriminative power is still limited, but as more variants are discovered they may be useful for predicting reproductive lifespan.
The authors suggest that we do not have any long-range indicators but we believe that anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) may be just such a long-range indicator. See my page on AMH testing for more details.
Nevertheless, not all tests are perfect and it may require a combination of testing to help us pinpoint accurately the remaining time for family building efforts. As the abstract suggests, women increasingly delay childbearing for careers and establishing financial security. Having a test or combination of tests that would allow a woman or couple the opportunity to plan more accurately would be welcome.